Synthetic cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors. New generation of potent anti-cancer drugs

Adv Exp Med Biol. 1999;457:341-53.


The unsatisfactory results of current anti-cancer therapies require the active search for new drugs, new treatment strategies and a deeper understanding of the host-tumour relationship. From this point of view, the drugs with a capacity to substitute the functions of altered tumour suppressor genes are of prominent interest. Since one of the main functions of oncosuppressors is to mediate cell cycle arrest via modification of cyclin dependent kinases (CDKs) activity, the compounds with ability to substitute altered functions of these genes in neoplastic cells are of prominent interest. Synthetic inhibitors of cyclin dependent kinases (CDKIs) are typical representatives of such drugs. Olomoucine (OC), flavopiridol (FP), butyrolactone I (BL) and their derivatives selectively inhibit CDKs and thus constrain tumor cell proliferation under in vitro and/or in vivo conditions. We originally discovered OC and its inhibitory activity toward CDK1 family of CDKs, and recently reported the induction of apoptosis and tumor regression following OC application. Moreover, the OC family of synthetic CDKIs has the capacity of directly inhibit CDK7, the principal enzyme required for activating other CDKs, and thus these compounds are the first known CDK7 inhibitors. Its unique mechanism of action and potent anti-cancer activity under both in vitro and in vivo conditions provide a unique tool to inhibit tumour cell proliferation, and to selectively induce apoptosis in neoplastic tissues. The mechanisms of anti-cancer activities of FP, BL, OC and related synthetic CDKIs are compared and discussed in this paper.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemical synthesis
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Drug Design
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemical synthesis
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Flavonoids / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Piperidines / toxicity
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Flavonoids
  • Piperidines
  • alvocidib
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases